Weight loss: a marathon or a sprint race?

This time each year many decide to get into a weight loss regime. The thought of wearing a bathing suit on the beach, feeling like prey to indiscreet looks, is enough for us to try and lose some weight even at the eleventh hour. Of course, although body image is usually the most powerful motive (baring health problems), we shouldn’t forget that a healthy body weight can shield our health both in the near and distant future.Rabbit and turtle

We need to take care of our body throughout the year and not just during the period immediately before going on holiday. If for no other reason, because trying to shed pounds in a short time period can be exhausting and stressful. A corollary of our need for instantaneous results is to opt for solutions that although lacking in scientific validation, promise spectacular results in limited time. However, in essence they are too “convenient” to be true.

Our tendency to prefer the “short cut” of weight loss, right before summer, perhaps lies on a more general idea that the food we consume does not so much impact our health as it does our image. Although we do know that diet affects our health, how conscious are we of its effects and do they weigh in on our nutritional choices?

The mentality described above is probably based on the fact that weight loss ordinarily doesn’t have prompt tangible results on our health. Meaning that a healthy person that loses 20-30 kg will definitely feel the difference in his body and movement, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that his health indices will improve too. Getting better health wise, following a dramatic weight loss, is more apparent when there is an underlying disease like say increased cholesterol, joint pain etc.

The fact of the matter is that nutrition contributes by helping prevent the occurrence of certain conditions, and that is true for healthy individuals, as what we eat effects our future wellbeing. That is, following a balanced diet benefits our health for years to come. How does that happen? We delay the onset of chronic health problems, like diabetes or heart disease, while also slowing down their progression after they’ve occurred.

In addition to what we described above, we should consider the fact that a person with specific nutritional needs will have a hard time changing them and adhering to these changes long-term. Hence very often we observe an intense effort for a few months, followed by the return of the aforementioned “bad” habits plus weight regain. Therefore beyond a timely or an enduring weight loss the question is can one sustain diet/lifestyle changes long-term?

A gradual slim down, without deprivation, based on the altering of those nutritional habits that led us to gain weight, will allow us an extended adjustment period and increase the likelihood of long-term success. For this purpose when you start your own effort, with summer looming, consider devising a plan that although more “intensive” now will be carried out, at a slower pace, even after the summer.

Orange Juice

We have to realize that caring for our body and our health has to become a way of life. Like in a marathon race, while we run uphill we slow down whereas when we run downhill we accelerate. Similarly, for some period our effort peaks while another it declines. It wouldn’t be wise though to stop the effort altogether, thinking we’ll pick it up again in the future. That is we shouldn’t give ourselves a grace period during which we uncontrollably and without structure go back to old habits. On the other hand we should avoid deprivation and exhausting diets.

At any rate, and no matter what you have in mind for this year, it is important for your body to act prudently. Also, you should devise a plan whose linchpin will be your habits, that way you may locate and improve them steadily so as to avoid adding weight. Remember that any change should keep up with your lifestyle and that the ulterior goal is long-term sustainability.

To sum up, in order to achieve the above you may be assisted by considering the following:

  • Set a realistic target, like for instance reducing your weight by 1% a week. Make notes on your journal for the period.
  • Choose a safe method. Avoid single-food or chemical diets. Reduce weight properly but remember that your body needs a number of nutrients as well as hydration during the hotter months.
  • Think about which are the nutritional habits you could improve upon and then set three measurable and realistic targets.

Examples of such targets are:

  • I will consume one candy per week
  • I will walk 8000 steps per day
  • I will eat 3 meals a day
  • I will eat one salad per day.